Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gingerbread Souffles with Warm Caramel Sauce

Of all of the recipes we made in my baking and pastry class, I think this one was my favorite. It is certainly the most impressive payoff given the work involved. Not that it's easy - but it's certainly not as complicated as you might think. It is a recipe that was devised by my instructor, and I hope he doesn't mind my giving it away here!

A baked souffle is basically a recipe for pastry cream (the custard filling for eclairs and pate a choux) lightened with meringue and then baked. It involves a two part process - the first part, the base, can be prepared well in advance. At the time of preparation, all you need to do is make your meringue, fold the base and the meringue together and bake. Souffles must be served immediately - hot from the oven, because they deflate almost immediately.

In addition to the recipe, we learned that there are a few basic rules that are essential to making a good souffle. One, grease and sugar the the ramekins - so that the souffle can rise evenly. Two, do not overbeat your egg whites before folding into the base. If you do, they will be dry and difficult to fold, and the mixture will be more likely to deflate. They should be beaten only to soft peaks.

This recipe is delicious, and perfect for the holidays. We prepared a burnt caramel sauce to serve with it, which is also very simple as long as you are careful in the process. The two of these together would make a phenomenal dessert for a Christmas or New Year's celebration. Though I haven't had time to make them myself (hence the lack of pictures) I really encourage you to try it if you have the time. I guarantee your guests will be in awe.

Gingerbread Souffles with Caramel Sauce

Makes 10 4 oz servings

6 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
5 oz brown sugar
2 oz milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 oz All Purpose Flour
1 T. ginger powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground clove
1 tsp cinnamon
9 oz of scalded milk, hot

8 egg whites
2 1/2 oz of granulated sugar

For the base, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, milk and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients together, and gradually incorporate into the wet. Temper in the hot milk by adding a small amount to the egg yolk mixture, then adding the rest. Whisk together and set aside. This mixture can be refrigerated for several hours or even a couple of days.

When you are ready to bake the souffles, grease and sugar your ramekins, and preheat the oven to 375. Bring the custard base to room temperature and stir it to loosen it up.

Place your egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, making sure the bowl and whisk are perfectly clean. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy, and gradually add the sugar, beating only until the meringue forms a soft peak that holds it's shape but flops over instead of standing straight up.

Using a spatula, thoroughly but gently fold the meringue into the base mixture. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet, and evenly divide the mixture among the ramekins. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes, or until the souffles are fully risen and dry on the top. They shouldn't really brown very much. (This is approximate since we used convection ovens, so watch them carefully!) Post Script: Based on feedback below, I'd recommend baking an extra one or two so you can poke them with a tester (in case they deflate.) The tester must come out clean.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately. If you are using the warm caramel sauce, encourage guests to poke a hole in the souffle with a spoon, and drizzle the caramel directly inside. Mmmmm.... it makes me swoony just to think about it.

Warm Caramel Sauce

10 1/2 oz of sugar
1 oz corn syrup
1/2 cup of water
1 cup cream
1 1/2 oz of butter
1/2 t vanilla paste (or 1 tsp extract)
1/8 tsp sea salt (or a bit more if you like a salty caramel)

Have everything measured and ready to go before you begin - timing counts in this recipe!

In a medium saucepan - between 2 and 3 qts, cook the sugar, corn syrup and water until the mixture reaches a deep golden amber color. The depth of color and flavor here will determine the flavor of your caramel sauce. The darker you go, the less sweet and more intense the flavor will be. You don't want to burn it though - if that happens it will become irretrievably bitter and you will have to start over. If you see it starting to become reddish in color, it is in the danger zone.

When your caramel is deep amber but not burned, tilt the pan and carefully pour in the cream. It will foam and bubble and release steam, so keep your hands and face away from the pot at this point. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and the bubbling has subsided. Add the butter, vanilla paste and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Makes two cups (one pint.)

**You can also make caramels from this recipe, by simply cooking the mixture to the soft ball stage, about 240 degrees. You have to be careful here though, because if it continues to cook after it is removed from the heat, the caramels will be too hard when cool which makes them difficult to cut -not to mention chew. I am still working on mastering this technique!


  1. San Marcos Pete12/21/06, 4:30 PM

    Nice recipe. I think I will try it sometime during the Holidays. I would like to ask a clarification question if you don't mind. When you said to bake at 375 for 20 min, I am assuming you adjusted the time for a standard oven. How long would you bake it with a convection oven?


    San Marcos Pete

  2. Hi Pete! I meant to research this and get back to you, but I haven't had the time to get you an exact answer. I believe the standard conversion is a few degrees lower (in the convection oven) and you would just want to watch them closely while they are baking. I'd also recommend baking a few extras, because some of them may rise unevenly due to uneven heat in the oven.

  3. this sounds delish! I'm a sucker for gingerbread AND caramel. Who would have thought to combine the two? Definitely will be trying this over the holidays.

  4. Hi, I made these souffles for a very formal (6 courses) Christmas dinner with friends. It was a hit!! Exactly the results I was looking for. I halved the recipe to make 4 individual souffles, and the only changes I made to the recipe was that I used dark muscovado sugar (sometimes called molasses sugar) to replace the regular brown sugar. And I used an equal number of yolks to whites. I didn't use the entire amount of sugar called for in the meringue... I probably only used an ounce for the 3 egg whites. I baked them in my petite ny apartment oven and they really rose to the occasion! I served them with my own caramel sauce as well as some creme anglaise.

    The flavor was so gingerbread-y and so light at the same time. Will definitely be making this one again.

  5. Oh.. I grated a little fresh ginger into the base too! About a teaspoon or so.

  6. I'm so glad you tried this and it worked out for you! Did you make the caramel too? The fresh ginger sounds good - did you still use the full amount of ground? I'd probably be inclined to cut back on it a bit if I added fresh ginger.

  7. i used the full amount of ground. i think the fresh just gave it another type of zing rather than making it too ginger-y.

    i didn't use your caramel recipe, but it's pretty similar with the addition of vanilla beans and fleur de sel.

  8. I am sorry to say, but this recipe turned my Christmas dinner into a disaster!
    The top of the souffle rose and held up beautifully after 35 minutes in the oven but when I cut into it at the table, it was liquid inside. It made my caramel and creme anglaise utterly redundant.

    There is WAY WAY too much sugar in this recipe. I showed it to my mom, who is expert at souffles and she said I should throw it away. The sugar not only tastes disgusting, it brings the mass down. Sorry, but this was the biggest dessert disappointment that I have ever, ever been responsible for.

  9. Oh no!! I am so, so sorry. I just looked at it and I think I see what's wrong - the other measurements are all in weight, not cups, so I think the 2.5 cups of sugar should be 2.5 ounces of sugar. 2.5 cups is definitely way too much. Gah! I am so sorry that it screwed up your meal! I hate nothing more than wasting ingredients, so I hate to think I caused someone else to do that - not to mention ruined your xmas dinner.

  10. Thanks for the nice response! I am glad to know how it is supposed to be. I shouldn't have tried something completely new for a special dinner. At least my duck turned out and my guests were very nice about it "it is the thought that counts", said my son-in-law. Some on them just ate the creme anglais pure!
    And I should have known better myself with the sugar, I don't know why I kept adding it even though I have never done a meringue with that much in it. I guess I was nervous about my first souffle and thought I should just do as instructed! Oh well.